- Says Cuts to Make Execution Difficult if not Impossible
By Nse Anthony-Uko
(Sundiata Post) – President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that the cuts in the budgetary allocations of 4,700 projects by the National Assembly will make those projects difficult, if not impossible to execute.
Buhari who signed the 2018 Appropriation Bill into law on Wednesday, faulted the rationale behind the National Assembly cutting allocations off some projects and introducing new ones without giving consideration to importance of such projects.
The president said that the logic behind the Constitutional direction that budgets should be proposed by the Executive is that it is the Executive that knows and defines its policies and projects.
The National Assembly made cuts amounting to N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578 billion, thus raising the budget from N8.6 trillion submitted to them in November 2017, to N9.12 trillion.
“I am concerned about some of the changes that the National Assembly has made to the budget proposals that I presented. The logic behind the Constitutional direction that budgets should be proposed by the Executive is that it is the Executive that knows and defines its policies and projects. Unfortunately, that has not been given much regard in what has been sent to me.
“Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation. Some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been properly conceptualised, designed and cost and will, therefore, be difficult to execute.
“Furthermore, many of these new projects introduced by the National Assembly have been added to the budgets of most MDAs with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required,” the president stated.
He explained that some of the new projects included by the NASS relate to matters that are the responsibility of the States and Local Governments, and for which the Federal Government should therefore not be unduly burdened.
The president said he would seek remedy.
“It is my intention to seek to remedy some of the most critical of these issues through a supplementary and/or amendment budget which I hope the National Assembly will be able to expeditiously consider.”
Examples of projects which cuts were made as highlighted by the president are as follows: The provisions for some nationally/regionally strategic infrastructure projects such as Counter-part funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project were cut by an aggregate of N11.5 billion.
Similarly, provisions for some ongoing critical infrastructure projects in the FCT, Abuja especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project, were cut by a total of N7.5 billion.
The provision for Rehabilitation and Additional Security Measures for the United Nations Building by the FCT, Abuja was cut by N3.9 billion from N4 billion to N100 million; this will make it impossible for the Federal Government of Nigeria to fulfill its commitment to the United Nations on this project.
The provisions for various Strategic Interventions in the health sector such as the upgrade of some tertiary health institutions, transport and storage of vaccines through the cold chain supply system, provision of anti-retroviral drugs for persons on treatment, establishment of chemotherapy centres and procurement of dialysis consumables were cut by an aggregate amount of N7.45 billion.
The provision for security infrastructure in the 104 Unity Schools across the country was cut by N3 billion at a time when securing our students against acts of terrorism ought to be a major concern of government.
The provision for the Federal Government’s National Housing Programme was cut by N8.7 billion.
At a time when we are working with Labour to address compensation-related issues, a total of N5 billion was cut from the provisions for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment.
The provisions for Export Expansion Grant (EEG) and Special Economic Zones/Industrial Parks, which are key industrialization initiatives of this Administration, were cut by a total of N14.5 billion.
The provision for Construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from N2 billion to N500 million which will further delay the completion of this critical project.
The Take-off Grant for the Maritime University in Delta State, a key strategic initiative of the Federal Government, was cut from N5 billion to N3.4 billion
About seventy (70) new road projects have been inserted into the budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. In doing so, the National Assembly applied some of the additional funds expected from the upward review of the oil price benchmark to the Ministry’s vote.
Regrettably, however, in order to make provision for some of the new roads, the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads have been cut by the National Assembly.
Another area of concern is the increase by the National Assembly of the provisions for Statutory Transfers by an aggregate of N73.96 billion. Most of these increases are for recurrent expenditure at a time we are trying to keep down the cost of governance.
An example of this increase is the budget of the National Assembly itself which has increased by N14.5 billion, from N125 billion to N139.5 billion without any discussion with the Executive.
Notwithstanding the above-stated observations, I have decided to sign the 2018 Budget in order not to further slowdown the pace of recovery of our economy, which has doubtlessly been affected by the delay in passing the budget.